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School district employee accused of failing to report child abuse breaks silence

School district employee accused of failing to report child abuse breaks silence

A school district employee arrested in relation to the alleged abuse of a four-year-old boy with autism at Kenwood Elementary in Fort Walton Beach breaks his silence.

Arden Farley investigated the allegations of abuse directed at special needs teacher Marlynn Stillions in the summer of 2016 and filed a report.

It wasn't until 2017 the father of the child learned of the investigation and reported it to the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office.

The school board voted against reinstating Arden Farley with pay by a vote of 4-1.

Farley also prepared a presentation to show the board, but the board voted against admitting it into the hearing.

Farley represented himself at the meeting.

"What I expected was that they would at least listen to my evidence. They have a right to vote however they want to, but this is America. We're open, I mean if we are in North Korea, I could have got that, but this is America," Farley said.

He believes the hearing, his arrest, and the failure of the superintendent's office to report his findings to the sheriff's office and the superintendent were for political reasons.

He puts the blame on Assistant Superintendent Staci Smith.

"The allegation that I didn't follow timelines is simply not true. I've never lost a case, I've written over 300 of them. It's just simply not true, but she was willing to say that to protect the superintendent during a tightly contested race," Farley said.

Farley's appeal is a process available to all employees who receive school board discipline.

The school board attorney said since 1990 all employees charged with a felony have been suspended without pay.

School board Chair Dr. Lamar White voted to uphold the suspension without pay.

"Well, based on the presentation of the petitioner and based upon the presentation of the attorney for the superintendent, that was the decision the school board made," Dr. White said.

The lone dissenter - Vice Chairman Dewey Destin.

"In the America, I grew up in, you are innocent until proven guilty. To take away the pay before the adjudication of guilt, in my opinion, is not right. It also severely impacts the employee's ability to defend themselves in court," Destin said.

Farley is scheduled for a jury trial, which will begin on January 8.

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